Make a list of what you like
Now that you have a budget, start to look at what vehicles you like in that price range. Call a few dealers, check a few websites, and pick up those magazines that are sometimes at the cash register of diners.
Auction sites are great places to check out, too. You can find some really good deals there. Sometimes you can get more car than you were expecting—just make sure you can afford the insurance.
Once you’ve decided on what vehicles fit your budget and transportation needs, go take a look. If you know a private seller who has a good deal but want to test drive the car first, it might be easier to go to a dealership with an identical vehicle for a quick test drive and then finish out the deal with the seller.
Check the vehicle history
Once you find a vehicle you like and want to buy, get its vehicle history report. Dealerships should have subscriptions to these services and should be more than willing to provide them. Private sellers can pay a small fee and get one.
The reports will have any history of accidents associated with the VIN attached to that car. Some maintenance records will also be attached to some reports. If a private seller can’t provide any maintenance records, be cautious.
A dealership will have their technicians go over any vehicle they are selling pre-owned, so a maintenance record isn’t as important. Be sure to get a dealer-provided warranty if this is the case, because they can still miss issues.
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